I was in a creative meeting and the subject of suffering came up. I rambled off a few things that have kicked the shit out of me this life. My new associate thumped the boardroom table and said, “NOW you’re relatable!” We laughed.
I’m more of a preacher than a memoirist—I only go to my hardship stories if they help make my point. And… I do what I tell people not to do: I compare my pain to others’ and figure that since I’m not fighting for my life, I don’t have much to complain about. But… I have had to fight for my joy.
So here’s my very personal hurt, suffered, cried, tanked, flopped, crawled, begged for mercy list. May it bring you comfort. Because here’s what I know for SURE:
You are never the only one. And there’s always a way through. Always.
In no particular order:
For about ten years I looked really pissed-off, sad, and exhausted in every photo. And fatter than I wanted to be. Because I was in a relationship that made me really pissed-off, deeply sad, and utterly exhausted. The divorce was quite civilized. My recovery on the other hand was a brutal reclamation process of my spirit, body, and dreams. It took me a few years to get up off my knees. I’m now a cliche: the totally free, initiated, empowered woman.
I was fired from the company that I cofounded. Yep, got Steve Job’d from my very own brand. The CEO that I hired turned around and canned me, and I was asked to leave with my phone and laptop, never to return (though I snuck back in the wee hours to photocopy shareholder certificates and take my art off the walls). I’d personally co-signed some of the business loans, so even though I was no longer part of the team, I owed a heap of money, with no savings and suddenly, zero income. The incorporation owned my online identity, so I spent weeks convincing Twitter and the likes to let me have my own name back, please and thank you.
I left home a week after my 16th birthday. I had to explain to the cops that I was old enough to leave, that a friend and her parents were taking me in, and that I would still go to school. My mom lived in another province, sent cash, and I spent summers with her. No one else in my family spoke to me for six years.
The Fire Starter Sessions got rejected by at least six literary agents. One told me it had to be more “formulaic”. Another said it was “too poetic and the only people who’d read it were Oprah’s audience.” (“Um, that’s a pretty good audience to have,” I said.) I gave up on getting an agent or a book deal, and wrote and filmed the digital version in my attic, in the midst of leaving my marriage for the first time (I’d leave more than once). I’d pack up a box of my things, sob for a few minutes (or all afternoon), then put tea bags on my eyes for the swelling, and then go film another session. (FSS is now in hardcover, paperback, audio, and soon to be released as an Udemy video course, and a facilitator/coaching program.)
My parents were teenagers when they had me. That in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, (it made for great house parties). But their marriage was on and off and volatile, so I never knew how long we’d stay in a house or a town. That kind of instability seeps into your psyche and you have to work hard to trust the support systems of life. The upside: I became an overachiever who can pack up a house in a day.
I dealt with interstitial cystitis for two years. The bladder lining gets inflamed so you pee countless times a day, painfully. A medical specialist asked if I “had to live with the condition for the rest of my life, how likely would I be to commit suicide?” That’s when I figured out that it destroys some people’s lives. And I thought, “Fuck this, I know what to do.” My body was screaming to me: Leave.the.relationship. So I did. The condition vanished. For good.
I’ve had a miscarriage. Women don’t talk about this enough—you don’t know how common it is until it happens. It was early term and I just thought, “It didn’t stick, the next one will.” I now have a perfectly healthy teenage son.
I had respiratory issues for way too long. I stopped counting the bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia, and inhalers I’ve gone through—made for interesting times as a professional public speaker who travels a lot. I could write a book just on my relationship with my lungs—which are healthier than ever.
I’ve burned so many bridges by turning down publishing deals and making certain demands, that I’ll probably never work in traditional publishing again. Not that I want to.
Those are the biggies. There’s more. Some matters I’ll never publicly discuss because…sacred implications. There are some wild esoteric situations that I’ll start talking about soon, as in Harry Potter vs. Voldemort kind of shit.
I probably get hate mail but my team doesn’t tell me. I’ve heard I have a reputation for going through a lot of people in my business. The last vendor I fired for incompetency tried to sue me. I have some very strained relationships that I’d rather not have. I weep regularly over the pain of the world. I have a love/hate relationship with hope. Sometimes “rising to the occasion” takes all I’ve got on that particular day.
Mostly…I just want to be healed and help others with their healing. And mostly, eventually, it works out that way.